With the rapidly evolving coronavirus crisis in Australia (and across the globe), many Australians are scrambling to ensure they have a valid will in place. Here are a few basic questions and answers that might help you decide what to do.
What is a will and why do I need one?
A will is a legal document that clearly states who you want to receive your assets when you die. Making a will is the only way to ensure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. Studies show that at least 45% of Australians do not have a valid will. If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed according to a predetermined formula, and if your only living relatives are more distant than cousins, your estate will pass to the government.
How do I ensure my will is valid?
For a will to be considered legitimate. it needs to comply with certain criteria:
- Unless married, you must be over 18 years old
- It must be in writing whether handwritten, typed or printed
- It must be signed by the person making the will and witnessed by two or more witnesses
- You must have “testamentary capacity,” meaning:
- You know the legal effect of a will
- You must be aware of the extent of your assets
- You must be aware of the people who would normally be expected to benefit from your estate
- You must not be prevented by reason of mental illness or mental disease from reaching rational decisions as to who is to benefit from your will
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a will, you die intestate – meaning no-one will know who you wanted as your beneficiaries. Your assets will be distributed according to a predetermined formula with certain family members receiving a defined percentage of your assets despite what you may have wished. Dying intestate can result in unnecessary financial hardship and emotional stress for your surviving spouse, family and friends.
Can I prepare my own will or use a do-it-yourself “will kit?”
Preparing your own will is not advisable. A will must conform to strict legal requirements in order to be valid. Anyone who is not legally qualified risks making a mistake – creating uncertainty or losing opportunities for good estate planning.
A will is an important legal document. It is advisable to have your will professionally drafted to ensure your wishes are properly recorded and carried out.
The team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers have years of experience with contesting wills and inheritance disputes. We know how to execute wills so they are contest- and challenge-resistant. Contact us today for a free consultation.